Thursday, 29 March 2012

Putting Things off!

We are doing some really interesting work on treatment for anxiety and depression and recently we have been looking at safety behaviours - the sort of strategies people use to cope with their rising anxiety levels.  These ‘safety behaviours’ work in the short term by lowering the anxiety levels but cause problems in the long term because the root problem has not been dealt  thus increasing the underlying worry and anxiety. Recognition of a feeling of ‘stuckness’ or of a vicious cycle being played over and over, is often the reason given by a person coming to counselling.

This subject interests me because I am finding myself really procrastinating over the last pieces of work needed to complete my MSc.  I am managing to find everything else to do to avoid doing getting stuck into working properly on my Personal Development Project – my final 8000 word piece in which I have so little interest or engagement. 

....but I am not the only one struggling!  In a straw poll in the Enquiry Unit these are some of the ways my colleagues find to distract, avoid and put off the important:
  • Moan to as many people as possible to get lots of sympathy for the horrors of the task
  • Read the horoscopes of all the people you know and try to work out how it may affect your life as well
  • When the dog looks at me like that I just have to take him for a walk immediately
  • The builder hides my stuff and thinks it’s funny
  • Adhere to the motto “Tidy space – tidy mind” and hang up all the clothes left lying around in the spare room
  • Eat – just anything as long as it talks a long time to prepare
  • Facebook updating becomes a priority
  • Planning the next holiday consumes hours of comparing prices, hotel facilities and local weather patterns
  • While having the radio on in the background, if a new song comes on, I must do internet research for the full lyrics and history
  • It’s time for the gym – now!
  • Rearrange the bookshelves.  This could be by alphabetical order,  genre, spine colour, scaled from favourites to least favourites, size - tallest to smallest

Arranging books by design

Arranging books by colour
  • Ditto for DVD collection 
  • Choose a book completely different to the one you were meant to read then get so engrossed you need to finish it
  • Make lots of unnecessary cakes every day for colleagues in the enquiry unit including spending extra time to ice and decorate them 
  • Cleaning the most unnecessary places that would never be cleaned otherwise eg the back of the wardrobe, skirting boards or the oven.

Why do we procrastinate?  T Powell (2000) writes that it ‘often amounts to deliberately avoiding having to confront our fears.  Proscrastination flourishes in two optimal conditions.  First: when the task is not urgent – we do not have to do it right now- there is time to do it in te future.  Second: when there is something more pleasurable to do now.  Procrastination is usually about putting pleasure before pain’.

He gives seven reasons for it:

  1. Lack of a sense of Mastery:  You believe that successful people achieve their goals easily – without all your doubts and frustrations so instead of sticking with it, you give up in despair.  Because successful people have this sense of mastery and believe that there will be a tough and frustrating struggle to achieve their goals, when they meet challenges, they keep going because they expect them. 
  2.  Assumption that you have to be in the mood: Procrastinators think that they have to be in a particular mood to tackle a task.  Actually there are some things for which you will never be in the mood.  Successful people tend to put action above motivation and find that once they get going the sense of accomplishment spurs them on to do more. 
  3. Fear of failure: Leaving the task to the last minute gives you the excuse to say” I didn’t have time to do it properly” thus protecting you from the reality of realising that your best effort is not good enough.  If you are a perfectionist, you may think that you don’t want to start unless you can do it properly (read ‘perfectly’) otherwise you will feel like a failure. 
  4.  Fear of rejection or intimacy: You may put off inviting people around or making that phone call to avoid the possibility of being rejected. By procrastinating you can keep a safe emotional distance to avoid revealing yourself to others. 
  5. Fear of Success: If you do it well, you may draw attention to yourself or create more work for yourself. 
  6. Getting back at somebody: If you are feeling bossed around or coerced into doing something you by procrastinating you are indirectly expressing your anger and rebellion 
  7. Lack of commitment: It could be you simply don’t consider the task important enough to bother with or else you may think you would prefer to do something else more pleasant or interesting.

Beneath some of these reasons that may seem rather superficial at first may be quite deep rooted beliefs we hold about ourselves that drive our actions – or in this case inaction. If the habit of procrastination is so serious that it causes life to become unbearably stressful, and /or relationships seriously affected, it may be time to explore it in more depth with professional help and support.  The student counselling service and the mentorship programme may be able to help.

In researching procrastination as a way of not doing my project, I found some wonderful web sites. These are two of them.

Structured Procrastination is a beautifully written tongue in cheek essay written by quite a high achieving procrastinator who started his piece with the following quote:
``. . . anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment." -- Robert Benchley, in Chips off the Old Benchley, 1949

When you are already feeling anxious about impending deadlines, guilty that you are wasting so much time and rubbish because you are depriving yourself of doing lovely things ‘until that blasted paper is written’, it doesn’t help to have people saying ‘Just sit down and do it.  I don’t know what your problem is.’  This next site is a lovely gentle explanatory article that may help you understand what your particular difficulties are and help you feel less of a horrible person!


Procrastinator cartoon:

Monday, 26 March 2012

Too many celebrations!

I am starting to get rather overwhelmed with so many things to celebrate lately.  After getting married last weekend, I scarcely had time to recover when it was St Patrick’s Day followed by Mother’s day and my Kate’s birthday.

My Wedding Day
My maternal grandfather was Irish, the oldest of 13 children.  He and his three brothers left school very early with no qualifications and even less prospects in a very economically depressed Ireland.  As young men they set sail for Canada where they were allocated land by the government and created a farm from the wilderness.  However, my grandfather Tom found the Canadian weather exacerbated his chest problems so he packed up and set off for California.  That was in 1906 and soon after arriving in San Francisco, the city was devastated by a huge earthquake.  Although he had so little, he lost it all.  After helping in the rescue operation, he took various other jobs including lumberjack, and gardening work but with itchy feet, he decided to set sail once again.  He arrived in New Zealand to a letter from his mother which had taken almost two months to reach him from Ireland.  She wrote that as he was in the area, he may as well keep going to Melbourne where he could meet up with an old family friend who may help him find work.  He took the advice, went for tea with the family and ended up marrying Sylvia, the daughter.  That was years later; first he moved up to the country where he became a pioneer in the fruit industry, building an orchard from scratch.  It was only when he could afford to build a house that he could ask for Sylvia’s hand. So that is how I ended up eligible for an Irish passport and with a love of Guinness! 

Guinness beer drinkers
As soon as Tom’s brothers had made enough money in Canada, they went back to Ireland to collect their almost destitute mother and sister to care for them back in Canada. Each St Patrick’s Day I think of my grandfather Tom and his brothers who worked so hard to lift themselves from a life of poverty.
…but that is not the end of the story of my family’s itchy feet! My father’s father Bert was an Englishman, born in Rochester down the road from our Medway campus.  He travelled to America where he met my future grandmother, Alice, in Oregon. She came from French and Danish stock and made quite an impression on him as she stood 5’11” with her extraordinary strawberry blond hair and an outspoken manner . To the consternation of polite society, they eloped when she was 19 and he fifteen years older.  Bert was an engineer, specialising in equipment for the burgeoning canning industry and his work took them to Japan and Alaska so that he could develop machines for the salmon fishing industry.  My uncle was born in Alaska.  A few years later the family was in New Zealand en route to Australia when Alice gave birth to my dad in a rooming house near Auckland. That makes four different nationalities in one family! Once she was well enough, the family travelled to Australia where Bert looked for an engineering job in the fruit canning industry.  This is how Tom the orchardist, who sent his fruit to the cannery, met Bert the engineer.  By now Tom and Sylvia had three sons and two daughters and the families became very close, with the children attending the same schools and the boys playing together on the orchard at weekends.  Years later the second world war ended, Tom and Sylvia’s beautiful daughter Ruth fell in love with Bert and Alice’s handsome naval officer son Dick and they married. They had a son and five daughters.  They named their second daughter Alice – that is me.

I have always been so proud of my mixed heritage and the pioneering spirit of my family and I get to celebrate all the national days so Happy belated St Patrick’s day!

I spent Mothers’ Day in West Sussex helping Kate with her 30 km endurance ride.  I’d describe it as rally driving but on four legs instead of wheels with no brakes and a horse, called Val, with a mind of his own.  It involved Kate riding through different sorts of terrain, fording streams and thundering up and down hills. My role was to work with her boyfriend  to meet at the check points with supplies of Kate feed and horse feed then take lots of photos.

Kate takes a pit stop
 In between navigating down various country lanes getting very confused by the dodgy instructions, we managed to fit in breakfast  and decent coffee between the first two refuelling stops and a half pint of the local bitter in the aptly named White horse pub  between the next two – all very civilised! We all had a lovely day out but I had forgotten how much mud there is in the country.  The car needed a thorough muck-out afterwards. 

We had our tri-celebration with chocolate cake and bubbly then it was off back to civilisation and pending course work deadlines.  Unfortunately my computer blew up and had to go off to the IT hospital so I am anxiously awaiting news of the patient and am feeling rather bereft. Luckily we still have some wonderful leftovers from our wedding so if things get too tough we still have plenty of bubbly!

The Spoils!
I dug out my old lap top that I last used a year ago.  It took about three days to do all the updates and nearly drove me up the wall.  Time was ticking past and I was due to submit the first draft of my personal development  project on the Tuesday.  I managed to cobble something together and aplogise for the poor quality of it with a promise to my tutor that I would be head down and focussed all Easter!

Sources:  Mothers’ Day  -
                 St Patricks Day –
                 Guinness -   

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Down to earth with a bump!


Well dear reader, I don’t know how Elizabeth Taylor managed to go through it 7 times – getting married is exhausting!  I am now walking around like a zombie trying to get back to normal. Yesterday I was back at work in the Enquiry Unit fortified with a double shot expresso from the Student Union shop - the best coffee on campus  - but it still took me until lunch time to wake up properly. We all had a treat afternoon tea though.  I still owed for my cake fine* so I brought in the leftover chocolate and hazlenut cake accompanied by Cornish clotted cream and cream fraiche. Jess, our boss, remarked that I have now raised the stakes for future cake fines! Today I am meant to be reading up on the narcissistic personality ready for college this afternoon.  The words are going into my head then flying straight back out again so I have given up.  Writing my blog is much more fun!

It feels a bit like the olden days when you took photos and then sent them off to the developers and waited anxiously for a week to collect them and see how they all turned out.  I have no pictures of Saturday, not even one of the dress.  I'm sure some of our guests will send us some and then I will put one up for you.

We had a lovely day once the ceremony was over.  That was completely nerve wracking although it lasted only about fifteen minutes.  It is one thing to whisper sweet nothings into your loved one’s ear in private but quite another to have to say extremely personal sounding vows in front of lots of people. We are not very good at being the centre of attention and were very relieved when it was all over.

Half an hour later we were back home where we were joined by a few other people and then had a wonderful afternoon and evening with great friends, lots of bubbly and delicious food. We had only invited twenty people so everyone had time to talk to everyone else and move around inside and outside. The weather was perfect and because it was a daytime event, we were sound asleep by 11.30pm – ideal for us early risers! Sunday was a lovely quiet and sunny day when we went for a walk in Greenwich Park where the great swathes of daffodils are beginning to bloom.

Now the house is filled with flowers in every room – even the loo!  I feel like a film star – what could be better? 

*If your mobile goes off in the Enquiry Unit you have to bring in cake for all the staff.  If you leave it too long it gets converted to a pizza fine!  My phone went off last week when I had forgotten to put it on silent.